Welsh churches come together to preserve heritage

Representatives of the main Christian denominations in Wales met last Friday to consider ways of sustaining and supporting the country's churches.

Around 45% of the 4,500 churches and chapels in Wales are listed buildings with either historical or architectural significance.

The Church in Wales, which co-organised the meeting with the National Churches Trust, said it was becoming harder to find the money and volunteers needed to take care of these valuable places of worship.

The groundbreaking meeting at St John's Church, Canton, in Cardiff, brought together Baptists, Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists and members of the United Reformed Church, as well as representatives of major Christian bodies.

It is the first time Christians from such a wide spread of denominations and organisations have come together to discuss the preservation of Wales's churches.

The preliminary meeting explored new ways of assisting places of worship in Wales. A steering committee is to be set up to take the ideas forward.

Options might include greater coordination between the Churches or even the establishment of a new trust to provide advice and funding.

Alex Glanville, Head of Property Services for the Church in Wales, said: "Chapels and churches in Wales are an essential part of Welsh culture and heritage. I am convinced we need to find new and imaginative ways of engaging with the public to support them in the future."

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust said: "With funding for maintaining places of worship likely to remain scarce, it is important that effective ways are found to support the religious built heritage of Wales.

"Furthermore, the challenge for places of worship is not just financial. Many are looked after by volunteers and they often need access to training and advice on how to care for these buildings.

"It is welcome that there was such positive engagement at the meeting with these issues and how best to support places of worship. The next step will be for these key organisations and representatives to consider the ideas discussed and issues raised with a view to identifying the next practical steps forward."